A black religious circuit in São Paulo

Image: Jean-Michel Basquiat


From the Glicério floodplain to Liberdade, the churches of Boa Morte, Enforcado and Aflitos outline a historical circuit of the black population

The outskirts of the old colonial city were marked by a movement-space created by the black population of São Paulo. Its landmarks are the Church of the Good Death, the Hanged Man and the Afflict.[I]

The Church of Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte was built in 1810 on land acquired by the Brotherhood of Brown Men. Says Paulo Cursino de Moura (São Paulo of old, p.60): “per hundred and twelve thousand réis”. It is located on Rua do Carmo, formerly Rua da Boa Morte. The Church of Boa Morte has an image of Christ brought from the College Courtyard, which must date back to the XNUMXth century. Our Lady of the Good Death or the sleep that awaits the Assumption of Mary (the Dormito Mariae) is celebrated on August 14th, the day before the Assumption.

The temple has very wide walls. When we visited[ii] there were water leaks and careless painting on the walls. In 1984 there was a small renovation of the lining. The inner part, whose access was allowed to us at the time by Father Sergio Bradanini, has a dead Christ, which is used in processions. Sharing the church's premises, the black pastoral ministry meets.

The Hanged Man

Continuing the black tour, you will find Pelourinho, in the current Largo Sete de Setembro, next to the João Mendes Forum. Going to the Liberdade subway, you arrive at Capela do Enforcado. Its religious and political origin dates back to 1821. The First Battalion of Hunters in Santos rose up. The leader of the revolt was Corporal Francisco José das Chagas (Chaguinhas). The reasons: increased pay and equal treatment of Brazilian and Portuguese soldiers. Chaguinhas' sentence: death by hanging. However, the trajectory of the rebels allows us to imagine that they were imbued with a feeling that went beyond corporate revolt.

On June 3, 1821, there was a sedition rehearsal by the II Battalion of the Caçadores Regiment in the capital of São Paulo. In the same month, on the night of the 27th to the 28th, a few days after the Provisional Government of the Province of São Paulo was sworn in, the First Battalion of Hunters revolted in Santos. The actions went beyond the claim for back pay. According to Toledo Piza, the mutineers broke into the jail and released the prisoners, invaded the magazine and took possession of weapons and ammunition; They aimed the port's artillery at a Portuguese warship anchored there and fired: “Then, spreading the soldiers in groups through the streets, they arrested the authorities, kidnapped public or private establishments and even held for ransom the wealthy men who they managed to catch it.”

The repression of the mutineers was as severe as possible. The name of Martim Francisco (one of the Andrada brothers) was linked to the suppression of the rebellion. Those sentenced to death who were from the coast were killed in Santos. Corporal Francisco José das Chagas (Chaguinhas) and soldier Joaquim José Cotintiba (or Conditiba), born in the mountains, had to be hanged in the capital “as an example to their relatives and friends”.

Cruelty without mercy

Understanding the conflict requires combining the revolt from below with the internal crisis of the dominant state. On May 23, 1822, a revolt by the city's elite prevented the leader of the provisional junta from traveling to Rio de Janeiro in obedience to Minister José Bonifácio. It was the Bernard by Francisco Inácio de Souza Queirós. Bernard it was the term for an armed attempt and was interpreted by Toledo Piza as a conservative revolt against the Andradas. But it was considered by Sergio Buarque de Holanda as devoid of any ideology.

A simple struggle for power, she used the suppression of the Santos revolt as motivation to garner popular support against the Andradas, as Martim Francisco was credited with executing Chaguinhas. In fact, the entire governing board and the ombudsman of the district of São Paulo were accomplices in the hanging that took place under very special circumstances.

Let's look at Edmundo Amaral's description, in his rare book, Kneecaps and Mantillas:

“In the prison courtyard, with fine stone shoes, figures in cloaks pass by, floating in the air like flags; olive oil lights shine on the white mud of the walls; a line of lights trickles slowly from the large door. It is the procession of the patient. There is no shortage of muleteers, henchmen, militiamen, black people and the executioner on his red wall. In front, elevated, swayed in rhythm of steps, a silver cross reflects candle flames; soon after, between a square of spears, next to the confessor, barefoot, serene, magnificent, Chaguinhas passes to the gallows”.

Possibly on September 20, 1821, the execution took place. First it was soldier Conditiba. Then… the rope broke and Chaguinhas fell, happy and alive. The people, who were watching everything, shouted: “Freedom!” It was the custom to commute the sentence in similar cases and those present went to the College Courtyard to ask for clemency. He could be sent to the southern combat troops or sentenced to hard labor. But Martim Francisco, secretary of finance and the interior, after being consulted, decided to execute it again. The ruling junta supported him. And so it was done. But behold, the rope broke once again. And the crowd shouted: “Miracle!” Among those present was the future Regent Feijó.

According to Toledo Piza, “everything was ruined and for the third time Chaguinhas went up to the gallows and was then very well hanged, no longer with an ordinary and brittle rope made of embira or linen” but with a noose made of “braided leather tying oxen, which were sent for to the slaughterhouse.”

The Hanged Man's Chapel

Candles were lit and a cross was erected. They say that neither wind nor rain could extinguish the candles! After a long time, a chapel was erected in 1887 (according to Miguel Milano in his curious book Ghosts of São Paulo, P. 23). But the primary documentation that I consulted in the Curia Archive says that its first mass was celebrated on May 1, 1891, the year of its foundation. Its celebration began to take place on May 3rd, as in April 1911 the Brotherhood of Santa Cruz dos Enforcados requested the charter vicar of the archbishopric (São Paulo had already become the seat of the Archdiocese at that time), permission for the procession and the May 3rd party.

According to documents in the Metropolitan Curia Archive, the chapel underwent major renovations in the 1920s. At the beginning of the jubilee year (2000), there was a fire caused by a huge quantity of candles that a devotee placed there. This was nothing new in the history of this chapel, as other small fires had occurred there since the beginning of the XNUMXth century. Fortunately, the temple remained intact. The Chapel of Santa Cruz das Almas dos Enforcados resisted. Or simply “Church of Souls”.


Chaguinhas and Conditiba were taken to the Aflitos cemetery. The novena says, on its first day: “Lady of the Afflicted, your heart was filled with bitterness when you were denied accommodation in Bethlehem. Welcome into your warm heart, the afflicted who suffer helplessly!” It's a novena for those disinherited in this life. It is for these that the Chapel of Nossa Senhora dos Aflitos was built.

Its construction, according to Paulo Cursino de Moura (São Paulo of old, P. 124) dates from 1774. He seems to have been very narrowly mistaken. The old Cemitério dos Aflitos, and not the Chapel, was built in 1775, by government order. And this cemetery was born closely linked to the needs of black people. Who did not have access to the best eternal homes. The chapel only appeared on June 27, 1779, as documents from the Archives of the Metropolitan Curia attest.

It is possible that in 1869 there was some major reform. If anything so grand could be done in the most hidden chapel in the center of São Paulo. She's at a dead end. Alley of the Afflicted. Travessa da Rua dos Estudantes. Trapped between buildings that stick to it and, stuck together, even have a window facing the bell.


Legends circulate about Chaguinhas. It was said of him in the 1930s that he was Tiradentes from Santos. That he and Conditiba were the only ones executed for being leaders of the revolt. That the rope broke a fourth time and he was beaten to death. Who fled to the interior, etc.

Chaguinhas was born in São Paulo, a city that in 1808 had only 24.163 inhabitants (25% enslaved). He had grown up on Rua das Flores (now Silveira Martins).[iii] Near the Carmo Church. In the absence of more documents, we turned to the chronicle to observe Chaguinhas as a poor boy without a job. Always on call for small jobs. Swimming through Anhangabaú. Running through the narrow streets, as Nuto Sant'anna imagined in his historical fiction, but supported by some documents. Afterwards, he became a corporal in a battalion in Santos. But almost nothing is known about him.

The combination of the political moment, the unprecedented circumstances of the execution, and the small size of the population added to the news of the Santos revolt. Chaguinhas was not the only one executed. In Santos, other mutineers were hung from a ship. Chaguinhas was brought to São Paulo because he was from the city, as we saw. Therefore, it is quite credible that his conviction shocked the small town of São Paulo. We also saw that he served as a pretext for circumstantial dissatisfaction on the part of the São Paulo elite, which attests to the impression, perhaps revolt, that his hanging provoked.

Boa Morte, Aflitos and Enforcados are chapels that are linked by their history. Tradition has it that the slaves, coming from the lower reaches of Carmo, from the Tamanduateí floodplain, went up to Tabatinguera. They stopped at the church where they asked for a good death. They went to the pillory, in what is now Largo Sete de Setembro. They saw the torture of the condemned man. They continued to Largo da Forca (now Liberdade). They then went down to the cemetery of the afflicted. Geography involved condemnation, torture, execution and burial. There the circuit closed.

* Lincoln Secco He is a professor in the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of History of the PT (Studio). [https://amzn.to/3RTS2dB]


Avulsos da Sé, Chapel of Nossa Senhora dos Aflitos, Archive of the Metropolitan Curia, folder no. 49.

Avulsos da Sé, Capela de Santa Cruz das Almas dos Enforcados, Archive of the Metropolitan Curia, folder nº.52.

Documents and records of the Works Commission for the Chapel of Santa Cruz dos Enforcados, Metropolitan Curia Archive, 1920.

Untitled manuscript about the Chapel of Santa Cruz das Almas dos Enforcados, dated July 24, 1895.

Nossa Senhora dos Aflitos, Typed document by Wanderley dos Santos, Metropolitan Curia Archive, 1978.

Novena to Our Lady of the Afflicted, São Paulo, Chapel of Nossa Senhora dos Aflitos, s/d.

Antonio de Toledo Piza, “O supplicio do Chaguinhas”, Magazine of the Historical and Geographical Institute of São Paulo, Vol. V, 1899-1900.

Caio Prado Jr. Political evolution of Brazil: essay on materialist interpretation of Brazilian history. São Paulo: Empreza Gráfica Revista dos Tribunais, 1933.

Edmundo Amaral. Kneecaps and Mantillas. Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Civilization, 1932.

Leonardo Arroyo, Churches of São Paulo🇧🇷 Rio de Janeiro: José Olympio, 1954.

Miguel Milano. The ghosts of ancient São Paulo. São Paulo: Ed. Saraiva, 1949.

Nanci Leonzo. “A riot and a controversy”. IEB Magazine (24), São Paulo, 1982.

Nuto Sant'anna. Santa Cruz dos Forcados. São Paulo: Tipografia Rossolillo, 1937.

Paulo Cursino de Moura, São Paulo of old🇧🇷 São Paulo: Edusp, 1980.

Sergio Buarque de Holanda. General history of Brazilian civilization. Volume II, 2 vol. São Paulo: Difel, 1964.


[I] This article was rewritten from my 2.000 book Ancient Chapels of São Paulo, which was never published. Ciro Seiji took the photographs. The book has been plagiarized on Catholic websites and Wikipedia without mention of my authorship. This is because some excerpts duly signed by me came to light in a neighborhood newspaper (Butantã) and then inhabited the electronic magazine Parties. The current article was rewritten from those first texts from more than twenty years ago. I added new data to the original research. An example of a website that has appropriated texts without mention of authorship is https://www.catolicismoromano.com.br/

[ii] I visited it in 2.000 with Ciro Seiji who photographed it.

[iii] São Paulo had a Rua das Flores, currently Silveira Martins; and a Travessa das Flores, now Joaquim dos Santos Andrade, named after a metallurgical unionist.

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